Drinking wine and watching good movies are essential survival skills for a Halifax winter, so it makes sense to combine these two passions. Here are my favourite wine/ movie combinations. All of the movies below are on either Netflix or iTunes. (Or better yet, support our lone remaining local movierental store, and get them at Video Difference on Quinpool Road.)
Pairing: French Red Bordeaux (lots of tasty ones available for under $30)
Russell Crowe narrates this fascinating exploration of the effect the global economy is having on the cost of collectable wines. Anyone who has enjoyed or collected Bordeaux and Burgundy wines knows how their prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Most of the top French wines are now out of reach to all of us except the extremely wealthy. The commodity trading and collecting of wines by wealthy Chinese has mostly fuelled this. That wine has become a status symbol in a country where less than one per cent of the population has even tried it, is a study in modern excess.
A Year in Burgundy
Pairing: Pinot Noir (if not French, try New Zealand)
This one took a little longer to warm up to, but ended up being quite enjoyable. The cliché-driven beginning that included a California importer and a very French vintner didn’t help. But then we get the beautiful and close-up scenery of the Cote du Nuit vineyards. And soon we’re behind the scenes with seven different top winemaking families, and getting an inside view of the making of some of the best wines in the world. The family dynamics are displayed with compassion, but it is easy to see the next generation thinking they can out-do their parents. In reality, wine making, and specifically grape growing, is basically the same in this region now, as it was 200 years ago.
A Good Year
Pairing: Provence Rosé (if you can find it) or a Languedoc Red from Southern France
If you are looking for a “starter” wine movie, watch this one. Directed by the famous Ridley Scott, and starring Russell Crowe, this one is a good study in human nature. Crowe as Max spends his childhood roaming to the vineyards of his uncle’s wine estate, only to inherit the now-neglected property many
years later. Wanting to quickly get back to his investment-banker life in London, Max puts the property quickly up for sale. What follows is some interesting self-discovery and romance for Max. Wonderful scenery and an interesting storyline make this one a Sunday evening well spent.
Pairing: California Merlot (they are much better than Miles thinks)
Revisiting this movie after 10 years made me consider how my appreciation for wine has advanced. Perhaps that is why I found it a little irritating at times, especially the snobby Miles, one of the main characters, who regularly disdains Merlot. Essentially this movie is a study in two men approaching middle age with not much to show for it. During a weekend bachelor party weekend in wine country, things quickly go sideways.
By turns funny and dramatic, with educational references to Pinot Noir—the Holy Grail of wine for Miles.
Blood into Wine
Pairing: a racy California Syrah
This is one for music fans: an in-depth look at the life of the mysterious rock star Maynard James Keenan, the front-man for such bands as Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer. After tiring of the rock star lifestyle, Maynard retreats to the northern Arizona desert. Along with his wine mentor, Eric Glomski, he carves out a pioneering winery in an area completely off the wine making map. Their efforts to bring recognition to the region, and
their wines, includes road trips selling and signing bottles for swooning young girls, who likely have never tasted wine. Watch for the funny cameo by Milla Jovovich. It’s an odd but enjoyable movie.
The under-$25 wine review
Bodega Piedra Negra 2013
Argentina, $19.99, NSLC Port of Wines
I’ve never been a fan of cheaper Malbecs. As with the Shiraz trend of several years ago, the market has been flooded with a lot of cheaply made, blueberry-jam flavoured wine. But a well crafted Malbec can be a great wine. This one fits the bill, and for under $20. Richness of berry and plummy fruit, restrained by some nice soft tannins and an elegant style. A touch sweeter than I like, but well made. Pair with baby back ribs, using a splash of the same wine in the marinade. 89/100
Charles and Charles Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2013
Washington State, $18.99, NSLC Port of Wines
Charles and Charles are well known winemakers with separate companies.(Charles Smith makes fantastic wines available here labelled under his name). As friends they decided to combine efforts and the result is a fantastic wine from a region we don’t see enough of in Nova Scotia. Undercurrent of smoke and spice. Clean and elegant, with subtle notes of cassis and dark chocolate. A polished wine, good value. Pair with a slowcooked beef stew. 91/100